Darkest Fear Page 63

Myron turned back to the car. Greg’s eyes were still closed. He wasn’t moving. Two of the officers ran toward the car, calling into their radios for an ambulance. Nothing Myron could do for Greg now. He looked back at the farmhouse, his heart still lodged in his throat. He ran toward the house and grabbed the knob. The door was locked. He used his shoulder. The door came down. Myron stepped into the foyer.

“Jeremy?” he called out.

But there was no reply.

36

They didn’t find Jeremy Downing. Myron checked every room, every closet, the basement, the garage. Nothing. The feds streamed in with him. They started knocking down walls. They used a heat sensor to check for underground caves or hidden places. Nothing. In the garage, they found a white van. In the back of it, they found one of Jeremy’s red sneakers.

But that was it.

News vans, lots of them, gathered at the end of the driveway. What with the kidnapped boy, his famous father shot and in critical condition, a potential serial killer in custody, the connection to Stan Gibbs and the famed plagiarism charges—the story was getting the full, round-the-clock, give-it-a-banner-and-theme-music, death-of-Diana coverage. Stiffly coiffed correspondents flashed their best grim-news teeth and led with phrases like “the vigil continues” or “the search is reaching its xth hour” or “behind me lurks the lair” or “we’ll be here until.”

A recent photograph of Jeremy, the one Emily had on the Web, ran continuously on all the stations. Brokaw, Jennings, and Rather interrupted their programming. Viewers called in tips, but so far none amounted to anything.

And the hours passed.

Emily drove to the scene. It played on all the usual outlets, her head lowered, hurrying toward a waiting car like an arrested felon, the flashbulbs creating a grotesque strobe effect. Cameramen elbowed each other out of the way to capture a glimpse of the stricken mother collapsing in the back of the car. They even got a shot of her through the passenger seat crying. Great TV.

Nightfall brought out searchlights. Volunteers and law officials scoured the nearby grounds for signs of recent graves or digging. Nothing. They brought in dogs. Nothing. They spoke to neighbors, some of whom “never trusted that family” but most gave the standard “seemed like nice folk, real quiet neighbors” spiel.

Edwin Gibbs had been taken into custody. They tried to question him at the Bernardsville Police Station, but he wasn’t talking. Clara Steinberg became his attorney. She stayed with him. So did Stan. They pleaded with Edwin, Myron guessed, but so far, he hadn’t talked.

Back at the farmhouse, the wind picked up. Myron’s bad knee ached, each step giving him a fresh jolt of pain. The pain was unpredictable, arriving whenever it damn well pleased, staying on like the most unwelcome houseguest. There was no side benefit to the knee pain, no weather forecasting or anything like that. Some days it just ached. Nothing he could do about it. He approached Emily and put his arm around her.

“He’s still out there,” Emily said to the dark.

Myron said nothing.

“He’s all alone. And it’s night. And he’s probably scared.”

“We’ll find him, Em.”

“Myron?”

“Hmm.”

“Is this more payback for that night?”

Another search party returned, their shoulders slumped in resignation, if not defeat. Odd thing, these search parties. You wanted to find something, yet you didn’t want to find something.

“No,” Myron said. “I think you were right. I think our mistake was the best thing that could have happened. And maybe there’s a price to pay to have something so good.”

She closed her eyes, but she did not cry. Myron stayed next to her. The wind howled, scattering the surrounding voices like dead leaves, whipping branches, and whispering in your ear like the most frightening lover.

37

Myron and Win looked through the one-way glass at Clara Steinberg’s back and the faces of Stan and Edwin Gibbs. Kimberly Green stood with them. So did Eric Ford. Emily had gone to the hospital to sit vigil while Greg was in surgery. No one seemed to know if he’d make it.

“Why aren’t you listening in?” Myron asked.

“Can’t,” Ford replied. “Attorney-client.”

“How long they been at it?”

“On and off since we took him into custody.”

Myron checked the clock behind his head. Nearly three in the morning. Evidence collection teams had leveled the house, but still no clue where Jeremy was. Fatigue lined everyone’s face, except maybe Win’s. Fatigue never registered on his face. Win must internalize it. Or maybe it had something to do with having little to no conscience.

“We don’t have time for this,” Myron said.

“I know,” Eric Ford said. “It’s been a long night for all of us.”

“Do something.”

“Like what?” Ford snapped. “What exactly would you like me to do?”

Win picked up that one. “Perhaps you could speak to Ms. Steinberg in private.”

That hooked Ford’s attention. “What?”

“Take her into another room,” Win said, “and leave me alone with your suspect.”

Eric Ford looked at him. “You shouldn’t even be here. He”—a gesture toward Myron—“represents the Downing family, as much as I don’t like it. But you got no reason to be here.”

“Make a reason,” Win said.

Eric Ford waved his hand as if this wasn’t worth his time.

Win kept the voice at a low, soothing level. “You don’t have to be a part of it,” he said. “Simply talk to his attorney. Leave Gibbs alone in the room. That’s all. Nothing unethical about that.”

Ford shook his head. “You’re crazy.”

“We need answers,” Win said.

“And you want to beat them out of him.”

“Beating leaves marks,” Win said. “I never leave marks.”

“That’s not how it works, pal. Ever heard of the U.S. Constitution?”

“It’s a document,” Win said, “not a trump card. You have a choice. The obscure rights of that subhuman”—Win gestured through the glass—“or a young boy’s right to live.”

Ford leaned his forehead against the glass.

“If the boy dies while we’re standing here,” Win said, “how will you feel then?”

Ford shut his eyes. In the holding room, Clara Steinberg rose from her chair. She turned, and for the first time, Myron saw her face. He knew that she had represented bad people before—very, very bad people—but whatever horrors she was now hearing had washed away her skin tone and etched in something that would probably never leave. She approached the one-way mirror and knocked. Ford hit the sound switch.

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